Electronic signatures

Electronic signatures – how they will speed up your property transactions

Would you like to complete your property transactions faster and save some trees at the same time? If so, opting to electronically sign your transfers, leases, legal mortgages and many other property documents is the solution for you. In this short article we visualise the process that must be followed for electronically signing registrable documents that require a witness and weigh up the risks and benefits.

What are electronic signatures?

Electronic signatures are an electronic replacement for wet ink signatures, the traditional method of signing paper documents with a pen.

Which registrable property documents that require a witness can you sign electronically?

  • Transfers
  • Leases
  • Legal mortgages over land
  • A right enjoyed over land owned by another e.g. a right to run services over their land
  • Discharges or releases of legal mortgages over land

What are the risks and benefits?

Electronic-signatures-benefits-and-risks

Will the Land Registry accept your electronically signed and witnessed documents?

The simple answer is, until further notice, yes - as long as the legal requirements for witnessing documents are met and a specific process is followed.  Of course, there are exceptions and some property documents still need to have wet ink signatures to be lodged at the Land Registry but this is a quickly evolving area and we’re going to focus on what you CAN do right now.

What is the specific process that must be followed?

Parties must agree to use of electronic signatures and signing platform - mixture of wet ink and electronic signatures is permitted

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Parties must have lawyers acting for them, subject to a few exceptions

A lawyer must be responsible for controlling signing process through platform

Lawyer uploads document to platform and populates name, email and mobile number of signatories and witnesses

Lawyer sets out signing order (so witness is after signatory whose signing they are witnessing)

Platform emails signatories to let them know document is ready to sign

Signatory inputs One Time Password sent to them by text message by platform

Signatory signs in physical presence of witness. Date and time automatically recorded within audit trail

Having observed the signatory sign, witness receives email from platform inviting them to sign

Witness inputs One Time Password received by text, signs and adds their address. Date and time automatically recorded

Once signing process concluded, lawyer can date document in platform with date it took effect

Lawyer provides certificate to Land Registry when they lodge document certifying specific process has been satisfied

Job done. Simple right? The process is even endorsed by the Law Commission.

What if you are shielding?

If a company is executing electronically, two directors or a director and the secretary of the company) could sign. This would avoid the need for a witness.

Another solution is for the witness to observe through a window when you sign.

We are here to help

The experienced team here at Newmanor Law, specialists in commercial property legal advice, have the technology to speed up your property transactions. Please speak to Karen Mason, on +44 (0)20 7464 4081 or email karen.mason@newmanor.com to find out more.